Skewed Values?

I lamented the departure of Martin Roth from the V & A and greeted the news that he is to be succeeded by Tristram Hunt with muted enthusiasm (he is, after all, not exactly nun-friendly). But the reaction of the British media has made me wonder what we really value. Is it more useful to be a Labour M.P. with little obvious likelihood of government for many years to come or Director of one of the world’s leading museums (my personal favourite among those in London, which may prejudice me)? I’d opt for being Director of the V & A, with all the opportunities it offers to conserve, educate and enthrall; but then, I suppose I’m convinced of the lasting value of culture and am rather more sceptical of the value of party politics.

I was mulling over this less than original thought when I encountered yet another barrage of pro-Trump/anti-Trump opinion on Facebook. With the Inauguration only a few days away, it is inevitable that feeling should run high. Eight years ago I was slapped down by some of this blog’s readers when I said I thought the expectations of Barack Obama were inordinately high, that he would be unable to achieve all that some hoped and others feared. It is rather the same with Donald Trump. It is easy to get caught up in the froth of public debate and lose sight of why that debate exists in the first place. We elect politicians to government in the expectation that they will govern in accordance with values to which we subscribe. Muddled thinking, short-termism and the dire ‘what’s in it for me’ approach tend to lead to strife and inequality of the most unjust kind. When we are uncertain about the values held by our leaders, we have to mine a deeper core within ourselves and find there what we truly value and wish to live by.

I know that some will misread what I’ve written as a kind of quietism, an opting-out. In fact, what I am suggesting is an opting-in. Each of us has a personal responsibility to live well — that is to say, to live with integrity and purpose. When the public expression of values seems skewed or confusing, we need to be very clear about our own position. What we choose to live by, how we express our own values, is, ultimately, our contribution to society and to the good of all — and it is a contribution each of us can and must make.

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11 thoughts on “Skewed Values?”

  1. Simple (in its best sense) and to the point.

    I often get caught up in the froth, rhetoric and anger online and despair, more often than not, these days. Thank you sister for your efforts and for reminding me of the things of value this morning.

    God uses you to inspire me on a regular basis. Thank you.

  2. Anybody who does not recognise the difference in rhetoric between electioneering and governing is not living in the real world and certainly should not be allowed to vote in an election.
    If politicians did in government what they promise on the campaign rostrum we would all now be living in Utopia. No principled politician has ever, or ever will, get into the White House or Number 10, for it is a principle that is more likely to bring a politician down than a mistress or two.
    Telling the truth is a no, no on the campaign trail. Ask Gordon Brown who put John Major into Number 10 with four honest words, ‘taxes have to go up.’

    • Oh, Leon! Are you becoming cynical? I vote for the person whose declared principles and policies seem to me to represent the best choice available. Sometimes they live up to them; sometimes they don’t; and I take note the next time they come up for election. Neither, however, has a bearing on the values I myself live by because I don’t take my ideas of right and wrong from what parliamentary legislation or the civil law permits or disallows. I don’t think you do, either. You are too much a man of integrity and generosity.

  3. This teaching means so much to me at this time: “When we are uncertain about the values held by our leaders, we have to mine a deeper core within ourselves and find there what we truly value and wish to live by” Yes.Yes. Yes. I will try, with the grace of God and through prayer, to do this.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, those that climb the slippery pole to the top get there by promoting the policies that the majority want to hear on the election trail. Whilst not all of these policies actually become legislation many of them do. So, in a democracy, we get legislation according to the wishes of the masses. It is rare that the masses want the best policies for ‘global’ humanity or policies in accordance with God’s law.

    Excuse me for mentioning God! The man of principle, when confronted by his maker will have to answer one question; ‘How many enemies did you make in my name?’ For sure, principles make enemies in this world and we, i.e. you and me, who bear the mark of baptism, are required to make enemies. And my dear Dame Catherine, that aint cynicism, it is something that many shy away from called reality.
    It’s only 14 days into the New Year and I have already broken my resolve to keep my views to myself.

  5. Considering the (few) nuns I have known as an adult I do rather wish, in no small measure, that my formative years at school had been formed by them….it’s fine to be inspired by academic attainment but even better to have the wider idea of the spiritual dimension attached to such aspirations. Tristram Hunt clearly has a very old fashioned idea of ‘nuns’! ….but..despite being a left wing person myself….who could honestly pass up the opportunity of running the V&A? Possibly my dream job! (for which, incidentally, I am totally unqualified!).

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